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Adria in town!

October 2, 2008 |  1:31 pm

Elbulli_2Ferran Adria is coming to Los Angeles and he'll be signing books at Cook's Library. For a certain group of people (and you know who you are), that's all that needs to be said. It's like finding out Beck is playing Cafe Largo. Adria may not be the best chef in the world or run the best restaurant in the world, as he claims in the subtitle of his new cookbook "A Day at El Bulli", but he is almost certainly the most-talked about. And if you're over by the Beverly Center on Oct. 14 between 3:30 and 5 p.m., you can meet him in person.

Working with wild creativity out of a tiny restaurant on an isolated stretch of the Spanish coast, Adria has led the way for the hyper-modern school of cuisine sometimes known as molecular gastronomy. In the past, his cookbooks have been lavish crosses between lab manual and artist's catalogue, documenting both technique and philosophy. And they've been hugely expensive, too -- selling for better than $200.
His new book, published by the British art house Phaidon, is selling for only $50 ($32.97 on Amazon!). But if any corners were cut in its production, it's hard to see where. (more after jump)

It is still huge (600 pages, weighing 7 pounds) and it is still lavishly illustrated (the publisher claims 800 photos, mostly in color). And it still retains the slightly cracked "catalogue raisonee" quality of its predecessors -- there's as much philosophical pondering as there is cooking.

That's probably as it should be, though. Adria will almost certainly wind up being known better for his path-breaking inventions than for any specific deliciousness. He's the guy who saw possibilities in food that nobody else could and then invented techniques to make them real. Whether the dishes are actually "good" depends on how you feel about foam (a minor cheap shot, sure, but more or less true).

If you're getting the picture that this is not really a cookbook, well, that probably depends on what you mean by "cookbook" ... or, for that matter, "real." There are recipes, and theoretically you could accomplish them at home, given sufficient equipment and time. Typical is the "Margarita 2005", which is a margarita frappe served with "salt air" and topped with Himalayan sea salt grated on a Microplane.

But still, the book is endlessly fascinating, in its way. After all, we have armchair cookbooks that explore the cuisines of different countries. Why should we not have one exploring the food on a different planet?

Ferran Adria at Cook's Library, 8373 W. Third St., Los Angeles, Oct. 14, 3:30-5 p.m., (323) 655-3141.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo credit: Phaidon